Chapter 16 (Reference to female suffering, but mostly the wrapping-up)
Nick was visibly nervous walking into the Ritzbar Towers building. The posh Manhattan set was far beyond his usual experience, and this was a nightmarish but still very upper-crust version of the old world. Making it doubly nightmarish as far as Nick was concerned. The security was ad-hoc, but heavy. Leslie walked through them. Her name was still on the printed residents list. The old security recognized her and asked no questions about her appearance. As her guest, Nick was ushered through without hesitation. No one checked under his jacket.
“That was lucky,” he said when they were in.
“These are good people working here,” Leslie said. “I hate to have to give them a bloodbath on their watch. Remember, we go up, shoot, and leave. Nothing fancy. And then we never return to the building again.”
“Like I’d want to,” Nick replied.
“And the elevators still work. Good,” Leslie said.
“Which floor are we heading for?”
“Then thank God for miracles of electricity.”
“Hold that door!” someone outside shouted. Nick stuck his hand in the door instinctively, then mentally cursed himself. But the occupant was a single naked woman with a pack on. He eyed her lustily, trying to be inconspicuous. “Thanks,” she said. “Could you hit fifty-eight, please?”
“Sure,” Leslie said, hitting the button again. Their glow was utterly invisible. The doors closed and they rode up in pitch blackness. The doors opened and they saw the 58 at the entrance. Leslie held Nick’s jacket as the other woman got off. The doors closed and the elevator continued up. “I hit 59,” she said. “We’ll take the stairs back down. I don’t have a good feeling about that woman.”
“Agreed.” They went up another floor and made a beeline for the stairs. Then down a floor and they were headed quietly to Leslie’s old home. Nick had the .38 out, cocked and ready. Then as the darkness slightly gave way at the door, they saw the same woman standing there, no pack, and two guns in her hands.
“Who the hell are you?” She asked them, both weapons raised, as was Nick’s.
“I might ask you the same,” Leslie said. “I live here!”
The woman peered at her in the dim gloom. “You must be Leslie then. I wasn’t aware you still lived here.”
“I’m back. Who are you?”
“And? What business does Casey Miller have at my parents’ home?”
“You should leave before you get hurt,” Casey said. She had a gun pointed at each of the two, while Nick’s pointed back at her. She jiggled the one at Nick a bit. “Mine’s bigger.”
“Mine will still kill you dead,” Nick said. “At this range, no one could miss.”
“Let us get to the business at hand,” Leslie said. “We are here to kill my father. He did something truly awful to me that cannot be forgiven. He took away the nice, safe life I was supposed to have, and at the worst possible time. And if you are here to kill someone,” she said slowly, “I will bet it is also my father.”
“Alright, alright. I’m lowering my guns,” Casey said, starting with the one on Leslie. “See? You want to do the same? You’re right. I’m here for a job, and that’s a hit on Bill Morgan. But that’s not his real name, is it?”
Now Nick slowly lowered his. “No,” Leslie said. “It is not.”
“And you’re not really human, are you?”
“I thought I was until a few weeks ago, but no,” Leslie said.
“Well, I’m really past caring. I just want the veil of darkness down,” Casey said.
“Will that be what happens if you or I kill him?” Nick asked.
“That’s my understanding,” Casey said. “Anyway, demon lord, it sounds bad.”
“No more darkness,” Nick said, mostly to himself.
“Focus!” Leslie said. “Alright, we’re on the same team. Let’s rock, as they say.”
“Good,” Casey said. She paused. “Here’s the thing. I was supposed to be let in. Do you have a key?”
Leslie scowled. She’d been carried out naked and bound. She did not have her keys. She was planning on knocking. It was then that Casey noticed movement from further down the hall. She swung around to see three women approaching. One was well-dressed and refined. One was naked, thirty-something, and looking like a concentration camp survivor. The last was Amy Fallon, still done up in faux camouflage, and always with her stupid smile plastered on her face.
“Leslie, I wondered when I’d see you.”
“Nick, this is my mother, Agrat,” Leslie said. “My mother!”
“And you must be Casey Miller,” the woman said. “I’ve heard you are a good choice for this work.”
“Nick!” Leslie said, but he was staring at the other naked woman.
“Oh, more introductions,” Amy said. “Nick, you remember Brenda Moreland, don’t you? You know her better as Twatjuice. Everyone, this is Twatjuice, as she still insists on calling herself. She was imprisoned in Nick’s uncle’s house for a decade because she killed the man’s nephew, Nick’s little brother Bobby.”
“No, no, that’s just what my uncle beat into her!”
“No,” the woman said. “He didn’t. He caught me. He saw the plate number. He tracked me down. I did it. I always was guilty. Twatjuice bad girl! Very bad. Punish Twatjuice. I ran away. I didn’t stop the car. It was always me. Please no more punish Twatjuice. She is so very sorry. No more pain. Stop the pain! Please!”
“But she said…”
“She reads minds now,” Agrat said. “She read yours and ran with it. Amy here was good enough to find Miss Moreland. How she did it, I can’t even imagine.”
“It’s actually not that hard to track a woman who wanders the streets naked saying ‘Twatjuice pain Twatjuice sorry bad girl bad Twatjuice’,” Amy said. “It stands out, even today. And I had a couple weeks to ask around.”
“It was me, master Nick,” Brenda said. “He caught me dead to rights. Twatjuice dead to rights.”
“I see,” Nick said. “Well, I guess there’s one thing left to do.” He raised the gun up. Brenda’s eyes went wide. Amy looked nervous. Leslie was ready to scream as her plans went awry. Casey just made sure the gun didn’t go towards her. “Brenda, you already suffered too much over an accident. I forgive you.” He swung the gun and shot it point blank into Leslie’s gut.
Two things happened. Travelling at over three hundred feet per second, the silver bullet broke Leslie’s skin and lodged itself in her abdominal muscles. She screamed in pain and fell over. The rest of the energy in the explosion blew the cylinder off the old gun and sent flame and pieces of metal into Nick’s hand, mostly tearing up the skin, muscle, and tendon between his thumb and the rest of the hand. He too screamed in pain, dropping the shattered gun and clutching his crippled hand.
“Well he certainly heard that!” Agrat said. She waved her hand and the apartment door flew open. “Go to work and end this, please!”
Casey burst into the large, unfamiliar apartment, seeing little. But soon she heard him coming. And smelled him. From down the hall came the large figure, well over eight feet tall, humanoid, and giving off his own flaming light, dim as it was. She held up both guns.
“So you’re the cause of all this!” she shouted. She smelled the sulfur in the room. He stood, maybe twenty feet away. She hesitated to actual fire just yet.
“I? You accuse me, female! Accuse the master of Evil, Satan himself! And my whore wife of twenty centuries! Turn your gun on her, and I’ll reward you richly when the veil of darkness falls away.”
“Follow the plan!” Agrat shouted. “He’s the master of lies!”
“Lies are the lifeblood of our kind!” Belial hissed, flame sputtering from his fanged mouth, “But this truth is a glorious weapon, and everything that has transpired in the Dark City is nothing more than a plot by Satan to rid himself of Me, and take my vile bride as his own true spouse!”
“That’s quite enough,” Casey snarled back. She fired off a single bullet. The shot was ear-splitting, and Casey heard ringing in her head. Belial stood, unmoved in the slightest. The bullet bounced off, shattering something in the kitchen.
“Do you wish to try the remaining nine now, female!” he roared, striding towards her. “I’ll shoot your cunt hole with those guns every hour for the next thousand years! Then we’ll discuss it further!”
Casey saw him coming at her and fired another shot in panic. It too simply ricocheted off him, going up into the ceiling and probably through someone’s home. She tried to back away.
“Stop it!” There was a new voice, and all turned to see three more women, all naked, rushing into the room. They stepped in between Casey and Belial. “You can’t kill him. If you want to save the city, you have to spare him,” one of them said breathlessly. “I know it’s strange sounding, but it’s true! You have to trust us!”
“Get out of the way!” Amy screamed, lunging at one of them, the youngest, and closest to her own obviously young age. She knocked the girl away, but the two adult women stood between them.
And then, from almost out of nowhere, came a cry of rage and anguish from behind Belial. Casey stared into the night lighting to see Misty, she assumed it was Misty, rushing on a barely functioning leg, and leaping onto Belial’s back, trying to throttle him with her arm. She was bloodied beyond comparison, looking more like a train-wreck survivor than a prostitute and film star.
With a roar of rage, Belial grabbed Misty’s arm and yanked her forward over his head. Her shoulder dislocated and everyone heard the sickening scrunching sound of tendons tearing as he flung her around his head once and threw her into the new woman in front of him, the skinnier one doing the talking. It was a hard throw. Both women went crashing into the glass coffee table. Now only one stood between Casey and Belial. He roared and rushed around her, to Casey’s left. She aimed and fired, again with a useless ricochet. She fired again, just as the third woman lunged back between them. The gold round hit her solidly on her sternum and passed easily through her entire chest, blasting out her upper back in a spray of blood, bone, and spinal material, and landing with a deep thud through and into Belial’s own torso.
He stopped, staggering back a step. Casey shot twice more, emptying her first gun. She dropped it and fired the second, putting two more bullets into him. With an eruption of flame from his mouth and the holes in his chest, Belial screamed and fell to the floor. Hot gasses and smoke poured from his corpse and as everyone watched, the body trembled and dried up, dissolving on the spot and turning into a pile of bone and ash.
“Nicole!” the other woman screamed, rushing to the fallen woman. But her chest was blown out completely. She had no heart left, nor most of her lungs. She was quite dead.
Casey stood, watching the pile of ash. Then she turned to Misty, lying crumpled up in a pile of broken glass. She was still alive, somehow, but was no longer conscious. Across the room, Amy and Jenna ceased fighting as soon as the demon lord burned up. Neither looked much worse for it.
“Glory be, it is done!” Agrat cried.
“Almost,” Casey said. She turned and shot a round at Agrat. The woman just lifted her hand and the bullet calmly came to rest in her palm.
“Don’t bother, dearie,” she said. “One demon per weapon. That’s the way of things. Those guns couldn’t kill Leslie at this point, let alone me.” Casey fired off the last two. Both ended up in Agrat’s palm. “Well, now you don’t need to believe me,” she said. “But we promised you the guns if you killed my husband. Take them, and go now. Take your whore friend if you wish. But go far away, dearie. My elated mood won’t last, and you will never want to come face to face with me ever again!”
Casey looked around, and decided to take the offer. She gathered up Misty’s crumpled form in her arms and headed out, pausing to grab her pack and stow the revolvers. Then she was gone.
Agrat turned to Tabitha and Jenna. Both were hunched over Nicole’s body, sobbing. “How?” Tabitha cried. “Why?”
“It is written, not in any of your holy texts, of course. Only through the blood of the innocent shall a demonic lord be sent to death,” Agrat said. “Your friend was the innocent, and the bullet that initiated death went through her, including her blood. There are many obscure ways to fulfil prophecy, but sometimes the blindingly literal works best. You didn’t know you were helping me, but help you did, and sacrifice as well. So go now. I will not call on either of you again. But be gone, this instant.”
“Mom!” Jenna sobbed, but Tabitha gently pulled her to her feet.
“Come on, let’s get out of here. I’ll take care of you. Let’s just go, now.” Together, they walked out, back into the inky void with no conception of the future. Agrat followed them into the hall, where Leslie lay bleeding. Nick hadn’t left either, too enthralled as he was in the fight that unfolded.
“So, my daughter, you see what a failure you are. And you, Mr. Rivers, are the least competent assassin I’ve ever come across. And I’ve worked with Italian Communists.”
“What did you do?” Nick said, still clutching his mangled hand.
“I did nothing, foolish man. You loaded .38 Special ammunition into a .38 Long Colt revolver. It exploded because your antique weapon couldn’t take the power. Thus, you are stupid. But you made the right decision in the end.”
“Why, mother, why!” Leslie screamed. “What was so wrong with me?”
“You’re an unnatural spawn I was forced to create in human form. You have no future in demonkind. I’m going to let Mr. Rivers keep you in his home, locked up, and with you divested of all your demonic powers except durability. Mr. Rivers, please feel free to torture and rape and destroy this creature for as long as you are alive. As with the others, I will not seek any further encounters with you, so long as you spend your life making my little abomination here suffer.”
Nick glanced at Leslie, the liar who had started it all. “Gladly,” he said. Agrat glanced at Leslie and waved her hand. The girl vanished from sight.
“You’ll have trouble carrying her home without attracting attention. I’ve just moved her to your dungeon. First door on the left. Good bye, Mr. Rivers.”
“Yeah, ciao,” he said, hurrying away. He was going to find a doctor, first. If any were still around. He had a feeling Leslie was right where the lady said she was. If so, she wouldn’t need his help for the next few hours to be terrified.
Agrat turned to the remaining two, Amy and Brenda. “He will not forget your excellent work, Amy,” she said. “I recall you were, shall we say, on probation when He lent you to me?”
“Yes. That’s basically it,” Amy said.
“I value good help. I will give you an excellent reference. You will be rewarded.”
“Thank you, mistress Agrat,” Amy said.
“But for now you’ll be going away,” Agrat said. “You can move freely about Hell, but that will end soon, probably before you finish your next question.”
“What do you mean, my next…” She never finished her question. With no warning, all the lights on in the room returned to full brilliance, as did all the lights set to the on position everywhere in New York City and parts of Jersey. Street lights, house lights, flood lights. Every artificial light in Manhattan was already turned on maximum brightness. Now the city came back to life, almost exactly eighteen days after it first darkened. Of course, most of burned up Jersey City, Staten Island, and a good portion of the Bronx had nothing to turn on. Looting, outages, and general failures meant much of the Manhattan skyline was a patchwork of darkness. But the lights were on.
And Amy screamed as she suddenly flash burned into a crisp, leaving only a puff of fine ash that lingered behind like fine cigar smoke.
Brenda cried out, covering her eyes as tens of thousands of lumens filled the Morgan apartment, revealing the carnage of the scene. “Twatjuice eyes hurt!” she screamed. “Bad girl, bad light!”
Agrat walked over to the distraught, terrified woman. “Oh, dear Brenda. I cannot relieve your pain or the hate that rages deep inside you. But I can relieve your confusion, and this I do,” she said, touching her lightly on the forehead. The effect was electric. Brenda jumped, but gathered her composure, turned her head rapidly, taking in everything she saw, albeit through the gap between her closed fingers.
“The light hurts my eyes,” she said.
“It will for some time. You’ve not seen the sun in many years. The morning will be tough for you, but you will survive.”
“Yes, I will. I know this.”
“Brenda, you can never have vengeance against either of the Nick Rivers that harmed you. One is dead, and the other earned my reward. But if you wish to stay with me, and learn from me and become my apprentice, you can become the hand of vengeance on a great many other people. Does this appeal to you?”
“It certainly does,” Brenda answered. “I would like that.”
“You were a graduate student at NYU, yes? Studying biochemistry?”
“I was, yes. I was working on prevention and mitigation of chemical weapons effects.”
“Prevention and mitigation. What a curious approach. Well, we shall first get you finished with your interrupted studies. And then we will do great things together.”
“I like that idea,” Brenda said.
“Now go to Leslie’s room and sleep. I must speak to one more tonight.” Brenda looked around and saw no one, but ignored it and walked down the hall to Leslie’s old room. Agrat remained in the living room, where she pulled off her clothing and stood nude in the middle of the room.
Before long, she saw the deep reddish glow from behind her, with the gentle hissing roar of gas flames. “Are you here, my Lord?” she asked.
“I am here,” came the gentle, melodious voice, deep and loving. His rich timbre and reverberations filled her with adoration. “We succeeded, and we did not even need the government fools to work plan B.”
“Your minion, Amy, worked out well for us.”
“Then she shall also be rewarded,” He said soothingly. “Now come to me, bride. Step back and we shall begin the newest era of time. The current four thousand year age is over.” Agrat breathed deeply and stepped backwards into the liquid fire, where she reveled and writhed in joy for the coming future of her kind.